BOBOVR Z5 review: an affordable VR headset for smartphone
The Xiaozhai BOBOVR Z5 is a virtual reality smartphone headset made by Xiaozhai, which is considered one of the best virtual reality companies for producing affordable mobile VR headsets. The VR headset manufacturer is based in China, and they also offer the Xiaozhai BOBOVR Z4, BOBOVR Z3, and BOBOVR Z4mini.
|Price||$ 2927 €24 £3,908 ¥|
The Xiaozhai BOBOVR Z5 is a virtual reality smartphone headset made by Xiaozhai, a manufacturer based in China. The manufacturer also produces the Xiaozhai BOBOVR Z4.
This Google Cardboard VR headset is compatible with both iPhone and Android smartphones with display sizes between 4 and 6 inches. Depending on the size of the smartphone, the field of view (FOV) ranges from 96° to 120°.
Users appreciate the wide FOV which offers an immersive experience. The overall opinion of users is fairly positive for the price point, especially regarding the comfort of the design.
However, although the VR headset was designed to work with Daydream, some users found that it was not the case.
The BOBOVR Z5 is a direct follow-up to the BOBOVR Z4, which generally received positive feedback and reviews from users as one of the best affordable Google Cardboard mobile HMDs in the market.
- Affordable smartphone VR headset
- Compatible with iOS and Android smartphones
- Easy to use for VR newcomers
- Limited VR interaction without a controller
- Head strap and fit does not easily fit all head sizes and hairstyles
There is some confusion over the Xiaozhai BOBOVR Z5, however, as we believe there are four versions of the headset in circulation:
- 2017 Daydream View enabled headset
- 2017 standard Chinese mainland version
- 2018 Daydream View enabled headset (new head straps and built-in speakers)
- 2018 standard Chinese mainland version (new head straps and built-in speakers)
In 2017, the first two versions of the BOBOVR Z5 released, do look similar to the popular Google Daydream View 2016, in terms of the grey fabric cover and design. The two versions of the 2017 BOBOVR Z5 also support different controllers and content platforms, which is important for users to take note of.
Furthermore, in 2018, Xiaozhai released updated versions of the BOBOVR Z5 but did not change the product name. The updates on the 2018 versions included the head strap on both models being replaced with a firm plastic headband, and the build of the speakers on the 2018 versions was changed.
The device we reviewed was the 2017 version of the Chinese mainland BOBOVR Z5.
Unboxing and first impressions
Unboxing the BOBOVR Z5
We were excited to receive the BOBOVR Z5 and get immersed in Google Cardboard VR, as well as assessing the limitations and possibilities of affordable mobile virtual reality headsets.
The headset arrived in a simple but professional-looking, white branded Xiaozhai box. The marketing copy was all written in Chinese, which gave an early indication of the model and type of headset we had received (mainland 2017 version of the BOBOVR Z5).
Stuck on the box was the QR code for the headset, and after reviewing the manufacturer’s website, it confirmed that this QR code was to test the authenticity of the headset. Simply scratch off the code (lottery ticket- style) and input the headset’s unique code online to verify the VR device. For transparency, our headset failed the authenticity test.
Upon opening the box, the BOBOVR Z5 headset was nestled nicely into a basic but functional plastic packaging and enclosed in protective plastic wrapping. On removing the headset from the plastic covering, it was also accompanied by a basic cleaning cloth and foldable printed instructions (in Chinese). The instructions also included an additional QR code for the headset with some basic instructions and visuals explaining how to use the mobile VR device. We referred to the website for English instructions.
The VR smartphone headset itself looked like good value for money on the first inspection, and the online comparison of the headset to the Google Daydream View aesthetically was justified. The BOBOVR Z5 has a mottled grey material covering the plastic frame. However, the rest of the device is white plastic, including the head frame which is half hard-plastic and half black elastic straps. The ear-sized built-in speakers are also an obvious difference from the Google Daydream View headset.
As we mentioned earlier, an easy tell-tale that our headset was not the newer 2018 model of the BOBOVR Z5 was the head support. The newest version has full plastic headband support and the speakers are designed slightly differently. This means that the version we tested is more portable with flexible head straps but is also less rigid, which we assumed meant a less firm fit.
Otherwise, the Z5 headset is not heavy (at 350g, it is 70g lighter than the BOBOVR Z4), but still weighs more than the Google Daydream View at 220g. The headset doesn’t appear ‘cheap’ for the price point of $29; instead, it is a good build and of good value.
Finally, the plastic, spring-mounted clip to hold the smartphone in place in front of the lenses is firm and easy to use. Some users also praised the placement of the audio cable in the center, as opposed to being placed on one of the sides of the headset, where many products have it located. This makes it easier to mount the smartphone in the headset and to plug in the audio jack to the mobile device.
- BOBOVR Z5 headset
- Head strap (half firm plastic, half elastic material)
- Cleaning cloth
- User manual
BOBOVR Z5 Controller
Our BOBOVR Z5 did not come with a remote controller. Apparently, the controller is only included with the 2017 and 2018 Daydream View enabled version of the Z5. The VR headset for smartphones is, however, compatible with third-party Bluetooth controllers (some users suggest using the Acgam R1 remote controller).
It is also possible to tether a second mobile device to the BOBOVR Z5 by using the instructions provided by Google, to act as a controller emulator. We didn’t test this.
In addition to our product page, the manufacturer makes the technical specs for the BOBOVR Z5 available on their website here. The details and specs can vary slightly from source to source. Furthermore, users can compare the Z5 to the Z3 and Z4 headsets in our VR comparison engine.
Depending on the size of the smartphone, the field of view (FOV) ranges from 96° to 120°. We found the immersion very satisfactory for the price point of the headset.
Interpupillary adjustment (IPD): 60-72mm
Focus adjustment: Myopia: 0-600°, Hyperopia: 0-200°
Lens materials: 42mm PMMA professional optical lens
Earphone sensitivity: 98 dB / 20 – 20,000 Hz
There is some confusion over the manufacturer’s claim that the VR smartphone headset offers 720° surround stereo. This may be a marketing faux-pas, although the quality of sound from the built-in speakers is good considering this affordable mobile VR headset’s price. It’s possible that the manufacturer intended this to mean stereo 360°: 360° x 2 ears = 720°.
The Z5 VR headset is made of ABS (plastic) with a large, grey mesh cloth over the bulk of the headset. The manufacturer claims that the product is breathable and anti-allergy; we can confirm we had no issues with the device being unbreathable.
In addition, the BOBOVR Z5 has a “Heat Dissipation Design”, meaning the VR smartphone headset is meant to cool your mobile phone while it is being used to reduce overheating. We didn’t find overheating to be a problem when we used the headset to play VR games and to use VR apps. Most users expressed that they only actively engage in smartphone VR experiences for 45 minutes to 1 hour (unless they are watching a VR movie).
How does the virtual reality headset work?
Depending on the compatible smartphone being used with the BOBOVR Z5, different applications and games can be downloaded. In our case, we used the Google Cardboard app from the Google Play Store, and could also use the Google VR Viewer app to further optimize the calibration of the headset for the app and for use with Google Cardboard.
Once the app or game is selected, connect the headphones and place the smartphone in the holder on the VR headset, and enjoy. We discuss the limitation of this below.
Virtual reality compatible phones
Based on the information provided across different websites and on our own testing, this Google Cardboard VR headset is compatible with both iPhone and Android smartphones with display sizes between 4 and 6 inches. The size of the smartphone affects the range of the field of view (FOV).
We tried the following mobile phones on the headset which all worked to varying degrees: Samsung S7 (5.1 inches), Samsung S4 (5 inches), and a Huawei Y6 Prime (5.7 inches). All of these smartphones operate on Android.
Comfort and design
Like all new products, we had to ensure to remove the protective plastic film which covered the lenses!
As mentioned, the version of the Z5 we tested is the slightly older model and comes with an adjustable headband, which although was flexible, didn’t always provide a snug fit for the various sized heads and hairstyles (or lack thereof) in the Aniwaa office. However, we did find that the HMD balance was quite good and the weight ratio was not an issue.
Once we had placed the smartphone VR headset on our head, we adjusted the focus and IPD with the basic knobs and click wheel on the headset. This took some time to perfectly adjust, but users need to adjust the optics once the phone is placed in the front slot of the Z5. Depending on the smartphone we used, sometimes the phone edge could still be seen looking through the lens.
The nose gap and pressure on the nose support was not perfect for everyone who tried the headset at Aniwaa, but compared to many VR mobile devices, the comfort was very good and the straps very easy to adjust for varying “craniofacial” measurements. Users also commented that the headset did work fine with glasses.
This VR smartphone HMD has 4 buttons/knobs in total:
- IPD adjustment knob
- Lens-to-eye adjustment wheel
- Two volume controls: up and down
Software setup – VR content platforms
For Android devices, instructions from the manufacturer were to download Google Cardboard in the Google Play app store to enjoy this VR headset for smartphones. They also suggested using VR Roller Coaster for a game experience. We did both with no issues and it was easy to install and use.
We experienced some issues with VR apps/games adjusting the focus to suit the experience and games. In most cases, though, we were able to address and fix these with some troubleshooting and patience.
The IPD and screen distance are the main factors that alter how big or how close the virtual world is viewed through the lenses. Using the correct QR codes for the headset made a big difference in correctly calibrating the HMD for Google Cardboard.
It is relatively easy to place your mobile inside the headset, which only takes a few seconds. Nonetheless, there are some frustrating limitations in the navigation experience without a controller and hence, some limitations in the apps you can use. The audio jack to plug into the mobile device is easily accessible as it is located in the middle of the headset, but it also can be a bit cumbersome in obstructing the screen and viewing glasses on the headset. A clip or peg to hold the audio cable could solve this.
Some users complained that with iPhones, there isn’t a button to press in apps like Google Cardboard, and therefore the phone had to be removed to change between apps. We can’t confirm this as we didn’t use an iPhone, but it’s the same issue that we experienced since we didn’t have a controller.
BOBOVR Z5 mobile phone apps we tested
Aside from the Roller Coaster app suggested by Xiaozhai and VR Sites, we also watched videos on platforms such as Baobab VR and the Youtube 360 video channel. We found that the QR code for the BOBOVR Z5 worked well, in terms of it better calibrating the HMD for use with Google Cardboard.
Overall, we found our first smartphone VR experience with the BOBOVR a mix of minor frustrations and some fun entertainment experiences. We tend to agree with the general user feedback being positive for this smartphone headset at its price point.
Having experienced far more immersive VR with standalone and tethered VR HMDs, we can say that the affordability and virtual reality engagement– albeit limited– of mobile VR, is positive for mass usage and uptake. However, even if the range of available content grows, experiences on smartphone VR are not lengthy or anywhere near as immersive.
The BOBOVR Z5 has a very affordable price point, is very easy to use and, although it is not the top affordable mobile smartphone for Google Cardboard, it is a very good option for users looking to get into virtual reality. Furthermore, the addition of a controller would have undoubtedly added value to the limited VR experience.